Biz Latin Hub’s Bart Everts had the privilege to connect with Margriet Leemhuis and gain her insights on trade relations between Mexico and the Netherlands. She is currently the Ambassador for the Netherlands to Mexico, working in Mexico City.
Margriet has 15 years’ experience working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She shares valuable insight with us about the nature and future of trade relations between Mexico and the Netherlands.
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1. Could you tell us about your background with the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and what led you to take up the role as the Dutch Ambassador to Mexico?
My first diplomatic post was in Chile. That is also where my love for Latin American culture and the Spanish language started. I travelled the world, Paris, Pretoria, Bratislava and London (and of course some time in The Hague), but it was my dream to return to Latin America, always with Mexico on my mind.
Mexico is a great country: dynamic, young, rich in natural resources and culture. Despite the social and economic challenges, I see this country has a lot of potential. Representing my government and promote economic, academic and cultural relations between Mexico and the Netherlands is a great honor and privilege.
2. How would you describe current trade relations between Mexico and the Netherlands?
The port of Rotterdam is the “Gateway to Europe” because of its logistic and commercial capacity in the region. More than a year ago, United Producers of Mexico opened an office there for the export of avocados to the Netherlands and Europe. Dutch people eat Mexican avocados and tortillas, but also use water technologies from the Mexican company Orbia (Wavin in the Netherlands), and use CEMEX cement. On the other hand, many Dutch companies see Mexico as a Gateway to North America and Latin America.
Many Mexican families have Dutch products in their homes, be it a Holanda ice cream, salsas Knorr, a can of Tecate beer, a Friesland Campina cheese, a painkiller or medicine produced by Dutch pharmaceutical companies, the curtains in their homes, or even the airbags and carpets in their car. Next month, the Dutch retail chain HEMA will open its first store in Mexico, so soon we can add to these products baby clothes, blankets, towels, and kitchenware.
Mexico and the Netherlands are countries that firmly believe trade and investments are important parts of international relations.
3. What current projects is the Dutch Embassy working on in Mexico to strengthen the countries’ human and commercial connections?
At the moment we are working on various projects in logistics and infrastructure, agriculture & horticulture, as well as in health, energy and water management. We are also working with local government on smart solutions on mobility: bicycle infrastructure, improved cargo traffic, smart lighting to safe energy. This spring, we expect a trade mission of Dutch SMEs to visit Mexico to look for business partners and explore market opportunities.
In our human rights program, we focus on women’s rights and violence against women, press freedom and rights for the gay and lesbian community. There is an impressive cultural exchange, a Fridamania coming up in the Netherlands with two exhibitions and a ballet around Frida Kahlo and in Mexico, we will host another What Design Can Do event in May. And there is the day-to-day work of an embassy, such as processing passports, visas and dealing with consular cases.
4. Is there are great presence of Dutch business in Mexico? Which industries do these businesses mostly operate within?
The main industries are in the agricultural and energy sector. They are present in the north of the country, but also in the south: Oaxaca, Tabasco. Many companies in the agro sector are located in the Bajio, that is why we also have an Embassy office in Querétaro.
We work hand in hand with Holland House Mexico, the bilateral chamber of commerce. We also see further growth opportunities in port development and the health sector.
5. What do you see are the biggest differences in terms of doing business between Mexico and the Netherlands?
Well, I prefer to focus more on the similarities than on the differences, but I can say that Mexicans are very hospitable, diplomatic and intuitive when it comes to doing business, while the Dutch are very direct and want to have everything planned well in advance. As an Ambassador, I enjoy my role as the intermediary between the two cultures, to achieve successful projects together for both parties.
6. What would you say has been your greatest challenge so far, as Ambassador?
Being present during the 2018 elections was definitely an exciting experience. After that, many people changed in government, not only the ministers but also many of the civil servants. It was a challenging but exciting journey to get to know the new government, understand what their priorities are, and see how we can work together in achieving them.
7. How do you see the future of trade relations between Mexico and the Netherlands?
I see a great and productive future in trade relations between our two nations. Both countries will benefit from the new trade treaty between Mexico and the European Union, that hopefully will soon be finalized.
8. What advice would you give to Dutch businesses looking to enter the Mexican market?
Come to Mexico! Personal relations are important in the Mexican business climate, and to gain mutual trust it is important to talk to people in person, preferably over lunch. You can’t do business via phone calls or Skype. Also, I would recommend everyone to contact the Embassy in Mexico or our office in Queretaro. We are here to help you with your first steps in doing business in Mexico. If you need further help, for example, to start your physical or virtual office here, do contact the Holland House Mexico. They offer services varying from tax advice or matchmaking to a sales representative for a day. And in between your meetings: don’t forget to enjoy the culture, sun and the wonderful food of this country!
Take advantage of strengthening trade relations with Mexico
Mexico, as an emerging global power and influence in the region, is establishing greater international connections and enabling free trade with the rest of the world. When looking to do business in or with Mexico, make sure to find qualified specialists to assist with the market entry, company incorporation an importing and exporting processes.
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